A crammed city themed by the reverberating horns of vehicles, long static traffic queues, raking exchange of insults and curses on highways and garages and the harmful miasma pitching the atmosphere.; Lagos is a special city highlighted by its economic pulse, countless beachside properties and enchanting nightlife but there’s also a certain overlooked kingdom that is unfairly judged by ignorant outsiders. The demeaning tags have meant little to the inhabitants of this kingdom, they know it as home. We have picked up the name the ill-informed called it, The Street. The Street has accepted the rejected, fed the starving, loved the unloved and we are all grateful…
PART 1: THE ACCOUNTS
Don Dada, the charismatic chairman of all the streets in Mushin wasn’t a happy man. He had been in charge for three years and just when he was about to announce his intentions to contest for a second term, the committee of accounts horned their impending visit. Normally, he shouldn’t have any issues with the balances but it’s been a tough time for the street people, especially the bus conductors, the phone sellers and the academicians. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t just the civil service, banks and other polished holdings that felt the ire of the global melt down. Street people were all forced to borrow from the previously unexploited street accounts with strong promises of soonest repayments. All of them did pay eventually save for two; Dele the mechanic and Shady the bright busty bookworm.
Dada called an emergency meeting of the comrades; a quick decision had to be made before the nasty financial officers came in. The last chairman in Mushin who failed in balancing the accounts was ewe eje in the late 90s and he was tied to a bus and dragged all the way from Mushin through Oshodi/Apapa expressway, Surelere, Akobi crescent, LUTH, Idi-Araba and back to Mushin. Those were the times when violence seemed to be the answer to everything, street hoods died daily in their dozens and the horror occupied the headlines of most newspapers and other media outlets. They were really dark times in our history.
“Wetin we go do now? I don dey rack brain for like two days, nothing dey comot” Don said
We all exchanged clueless looks; it really was a tricky situation. In the past, the way out would be beating the hell out of the debtors but violence only led to clashes and clashes led to unwanted attention and that led to the meddling of our snoopy friends, the police and subsequently governmental sanctions and whatnot.
“Na so una go dey look like fish?” he shouted
Okobo, the short podgy panel beater, stood up amidst murmurs and groans, we all knew what he was going to say
“Oga mi, I know we are all trying to avoid force but forget that thing o, Dele is a stubborn fool and he won’t answer you. The round girl should give us no problem” he said
Arugbo, the educated octogenarian street hood, jumped to his feet angrily. We all shifted a bit as he had this permanent stench that stank like an admixture of locust beans and pigs. His story was one that left many confused. He was said to be from a rich home with a world-class straightforward education; a first class graduate from Harvard school of Law who returned home and got attached to the then- renowned Barrister Juju (SAN) who ran the biggest law firm in Nigeria. He later got married to the Miss Nigeria of 1973 and from that moment, it went sour. Rumors of how the young barrister regularly battered his wife circulated town, her extremely reduced public attendance and the regular donning of dark sunshades further rooted the speculations. The young barrister increased his visits to night clubs and he was seen gambling with such craze never seen before. In a matter of months, he lost everything; money, the horde of houses and the beautiful wife, his family deserted him afterwards and he ended up on the street. The plunge was the topic on different TV and radio shows for years, the consensus was that it was Ise aye (work of the world).
“Don’t be foolish enough to consider what that Igbo man is saying” he said
“Hey old man, why you dey here sef, shouldn’t you be searching the dustbin for food remnants and things you can steal?” Okobo countered
“Are you mad?” Arugbo charged towards Okobo, his eyes startlingly widened and his dry heavily cleft lips firmly bitten by his upper teeth. We quickly sprung to our feet and held him down
“Leave me alone, let me teach this dog how to speak to elders” he shouted
“Where is the elder? I can’t see him o” Okobo replied, craning his neck around mockingly.
A loud bang on the table sounded immediately, we all kept quiet and looked to the front. Don Dada was standing on the table, fury and frustration burning in his eyes.
“Wetin be all this one? I call you all for meeting and una dey do like small pikin” he said
The room was silent, we all watched as the chairman’s chest pulsated intensely. He slowly climbed off the table, muttering angrily to himself, he was probably wondering what he did to deserve to be embroiled in such a situation.
Truth be told, Don Dada was probably the best chairman we’ve had in a long time. During his tenure, we never had major issues with the government or the average citizens. Minor clashes, which were always bound to happen due to our different ideology and the ever present segregation, were settled in a peaceful discourse at a round table. Rumors had it that Don was offered governmental appointments on several instances due to the fresh air of change he brought to the street but he turned it down; he loved the streets so much.
“I only have enough money for one person” Dada said solemnly.
“What do you mean?” Okobo asked
“I fit drop money from my pocket make I help one person”
“What about the other person? It will be like cheating o” Okobo said
“What should I do then? Continue to ask them? They no go pay, una sef sabi” Dada replied
“Help the girl jare, make we bone the guy!” someone shouted from the back. Cursing groans followed immediately, we all knew who it was; Marico. The one-eyed street womanizer was the only one stupid enough to suggest that.
A staunch illiterate to the core but he certainly knew his ways. He was a phenom to us all as in spite of his revolting appearance, he bedded a chick every night and they were not just random chicks, they were chicks even we the “more exposed” hoods couldn’t dream of having.
“Shut up Marico! We all know you groin is your god” Okobo snapped. Laughter erupted in the room, we all enjoyed Okobo and Marico exchange words like hormonal housewives. The two shared a history and it involved a girl.
“What about the game from Olu-omo carnival, we can copy the style” Ado said from his usual corner in the dark. The whole room was thrown into silence. Ado never spoke at meetings; he only screwed his eyes around like a caged dog. No one liked him; he was self-centered and vain, all he was concerned about was his spare parts shop.
“The gods have finally released your tongue” Okobo said, the room was thrown into laughter again
“Una dey mad?” Dada shouted. We kept quiet again, our eyes blankly fixed on our chairman. “Which game you dey talk Ado?”
“The same arinkinrin game” Ado replied firmly
The arinkinrin game was the yearly quest that was used to determine the lucky hood that would take home all the goodies; beef, fresh fish and beer. The location was the very vast Mushin garage. One the day, all buses were to vacate the area hence, average citizens or more specifically, pedestrians had to look for other forms of transportation. Over the years, audience of the game had widened from just us to outsiders and then TV stations, at least until when three reporters were killed.
The whole idea of the game was to hide a sachet of dry gin in any location within the garage and the competitors were given two hours to look for it. A committee of elder statesmen in charge of the hiding was set up before every event and the location was to remain a secret, even from the chairman. Baba Ope, the legendary chairman who initiated the game claimed it was to encourage “awareness and sensitivity” among street hoods
“Make person dey use eye study him surrounding, no be only bakassi God tok say make we dey use am look” he always said.
Dele and Shady were called in to be briefed on the latest development that afternoon; Shady came in the raunchiest of dresses, her bust out in the open like basking agama lizards, Dele was in his usual seasoned blue uniform that was only a few smears from turning him to a fully fledged mad man The room was thrown into a host of whispers and hushed conversations, even Dele knew his opponent was the reason for the stirring but he could do nothing about it, he just stood beside her like a statue. Dele had every reason to be worried or intimidated actually; Shady was a bookworm no doubt but her sexual desire was consummate, talk about two differing facets of a coin. Her legacy was “One night, One new hood to bed” and it was all for 2000 naira.
“Financial officer dey come next tomorrow and because of both of you, money no complete” Dada said
“I fit come see the officer, make I explain the situation” Dele said
“Shut up and hear word jare, useless fool” Okobo shouted.
“I fit help only one person from my pocket”. Dada said firmly. The two subjects exchanged quick fierce looks like a snap combat was going to determine the chosen one
“The arinkinrin game will be used to determine who I will save” Dad concluded
Dele raised his right hand suddenly,
“What does this fool want to say again?” Okobo shouted
“Let him talk jare” Marico retorted
“Na 4,000 naira both of us owe abi” Dele asked. Dad nodded in reply. “No vex wetin I wan tok o, so oga you wan tok say you no fit afford ordinary 8K?”
The entire room was thrown into shock; they couldn’t believe the colossal nonsense they just heard. Okobo broke the silence with a deep bitter feminine hiss
“Oga it seems we know who to save already” he said
“No, the game will go on. He will certainly get his rewards for stupidity another time” Dada said, eyes still fixed on Dele
“The games start tomorrow by 11 am; participants suppose dey here by 10: 30 am. That’s the end of meeting, make only elders stay behind” Dada concluded authoritatively
PART 2: THE GAME
We were all gathered like sardines at the garage, chatting excitedly like school students. It was a field day for hawkers of food, hot-drinks and so on. Juju music blasted relentlessly from a speaker surrounded by intoxicated dancers by a corner. Average citizens passing by wondered what was going on as they knew it wasn’t the date for our Olu-omo carnival.
“Baba, be praying for me o” Shady said as she knelt before Okobo, baring her deluxe cleavage.
“Ahhhhh. You don win na, that stupid fool must not win” He replied with a silly grin, his eyes fixed on the fountain she laid before him.
Shady stood and went to the other street hoods seated beneath the shade; kneeling, smiling, touching and even sitting on some.
“That girl is smart, she get brain” Okobo commented excitedly.
“All because say she show you top of her breast” Baba Obe replied
“Like you sef no look am” Okobo retorted before bursting into laughter with fellow hoods.
Dele sauntered in with a stick of weed hanging from his mouth. He gave whoever who was gazing at him strong cold looks before heading to a corner where he continued to puff smoke.
Dada soon walked and headed straight for the centre. The music stopped immediately and Ajupa, the bald electrician who helped set up the sound system ran to him and handed him the ugly well-rusted microphone.
“We no go waste time at all, na the money be this o” Dada said as he waved a brown envelope in the air
“The rules na the same, questions dey?”
“Wetin be the name of the gin wey we go dey find” Dele asked with smoke puffing from his mouth, nose and ears
“Supra hot is the name. Shebi you sabi am? The one wey get blue cover?” Dada replied. Dele nodded slowly, a lingering worry still vivid on his face.
“Should we start?” Dada said
“No lele” Dele replied
“Shady nko?” Dada asked, turning to her
“I don ready sir” She replied
“Start!” Dada shouted. “No talking from the audience o” he concluded
We all watched as both of them as they toured the garage; Shady was slow and coordinated, still wearing her enchanting smile while Dele was wild and hurried, scattering every structure like a police man searching for hard drugs.
Soon Shady picked up a rod, headed straight for the garage refuse dump and started digging wildly. The garage was immediately thrown into a reeking odor
“You wan kill us ni? Se na for dustbin dey go hide am” A hood shouted
“Shut up or I will send you away” Dada retorted angriyly
“Idiot, how dem go hide the thing for there?” Dele said as he walked past her, heading for metal containers housing the empty beer bottles.
“Sha dey look me you here” She replied as she continued digging. Dele hissed and went straight to the collection of damaged spare parts.
“I don see am o” Shady shouted as she lifted up the gin sachet and waved it in the air. The garage was immediately thrown into a chorus of roars and boos.
“Sharp girl, wetin I tell una, the girl go win” Okobo said with a big smile on his face
About six hoods ran out and immediately carried Shady on their shoulders, shouting and cursing repeatedly
“Ko ni da fun iya anybody, Ko ni ye yin, Eyin ke, e fe ku lale yii”
They were actually killing two birds with a stone; showing the chick around as the champion and tapping cheap undeserved current. Dele looked on in sheer shock, he couldn’t believe he lost.
Dada walked to the centre and picked the microphone
“Order Order. Please make una calm down na” he said.
The noise continued, it was like the chairman didn’t even exist
“Una dey mad! Wetin be all these one! Una wan die?” Dada roared over the mike, screeching sounds followed.
The garage was thrown into morgue silence. Dada’s heightened breathing sounding over the microphone remained for a few minutes before he shut his eyes and took a deep breath
“Congratulations to miss shady, please come and collect your money”. Shady walked briskly to the chairman and collected the envelope
“Don’t forget to pay to the accountant?” Shady smiled and nodded repeatedly
“And as for you Mister Dele, I no sabi as you wan do am, you gas pay before tomorrow”
“I no get any money for hand o” Dele replied
“If by tomorrow you never pay, I go arrange boys make them clear your shop. Na everything wey dey dere I go sell” Dada replied emphatically.
“Good one, I gbadun this man o” Okobo said excitedly
“Make all of us go back to work” Dada concluded and headed out of the garage.
PART 3: THE TWIST:
Don Dada called an emergency meeting with the elders that afternoon and as we strolled into his chambers we could see the fury in his eyes.
He waited for us to be complete and then slammed the door
“Hope no problem oga” Okobo asked
“How many of you did Shady meet?” he asked “if any of you lie, I swear I go make sure una life ruin for this place”
Slowly and shamefully, we all raised our hands and the shock evident on the chairman’s face was almost popping out his eye balls
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